49ers Run D15th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O31st DVOA/15th Yards per carry
49ers Pass D4th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O30th DVOA/30th Yards per pass
Giants Run D29th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O2nd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D19th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O1st DVOA/1st Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
- The 49ers are epically banged-up, and may slow down this game a bit as they continue to lean run-heavy
- The Giants are banged up as well, and they are likely to lean on the pass to try to win this game
- This isn’t a great spot on the surface for scoring, but there are a few different ways this game could break
- Nothing jumps off the page in DFS here; but this game can still be mined in a few different ways
How San Francisco will try to win ::
Against the new-look Giants defense under Patrick Graham, the short-area passing attack of the Steelers threw the ball only 32 times and racked up only 229 passing yards, while the short-area passing attack of the Bears threw the ball only 28 times for 190 yards. Jimmy Garoppolo has a shot at playing, as does George Kittle, but it’s likely we see Nick Mullens out there instead, and Kittle is no sure thing. With Deebo Samuel still out, expect the 49ers (30 pass attempts per game so far) to continue as one of the more run-heavy teams. Of course, the backfield distribution of touches is its own little mess to deal with in the Interpretation segment; but insofar as how San Francisco will chase down a victory, their standard “run-heavy, short passing” ways should continue in this spot, with the 49ers perhaps slowing down the pace a bit from there (they ranked 20th in situation neutral pace a year ago, but 29th overall, as they often slowed down games with a lead; this same proactive football intelligence could see Shanahan deciding that a shortened game gives his team the better chance at a win: as the more talented team, but with the enhanced risk of a backup quarterback under center and several injured pieces on defense, a shorter game means fewer opportunities for crazy things to happen).
How the Giants will try to win ::
First off, let’s say this: The Giants are going to try to win this game.
I mean…of course they will, right? But when a team like the Giants loses its marquee player, and is then taking on a team that nearly won the Super Bowl, it’s easy to write them off as a clear dumpster fire. But the line in this game opened at 49ers -6.5, and it has moved to 49ers -4.0. Furthermore, that’s not a bet I would comfortably be taking. (Not that I think the Giants have some sort of clear edge here; but it’s a true 50/50 that this team could finish with a loss of three or fewer points, with it very easy to swing over to a Giants win with a couple things breaking their way from there.) So let’s give this team a bit of respect, recognizing that even if it’s easy to write them off on the surface, they’ll be coming out hunting for a win, against a backup quarterback and a banged-up defense.
The Giants rank fourth in the NFL in pass play rate to begin the year, and they are down their top running back with Saquon Barkley out of action, which should push them more completely to the air.
We’ll get to the way touches should be distributed on this offense in the Interpretation segment; but expect a short-area attack that mixes in a few downfield looks to Darius Slayton, with a backfield rotation that keeps Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman at the top this week as Devonta Freeman gets his feet under him in New York.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
This game is interesting. The 49ers can still get downhill on the Giants; but the relative strength of the Giants is their run-stuffing line (the Giants don’t have a pass rush, but they ranked seventh in adjusted line yards last season). The Giants gave up 4.47 yards per carry to running backs last season, but this number was influenced by issues at the second level that led to a high number of 20+ yard rushes (including a number of rushes much longer than that). As such, this could be a game of short gain on the ground // short gain on the ground // try to convert on third; short gain through the air // short gain on the ground // try to convert on third; etc. Without the violent downhill speed of Mostert and without Jimmy G., the 49ers could require a handful of big plays to hit in order for this game to take off.
On the other side of the ball, Daniel Jones will face a 49ers pass rush that is suddenly a question mark, with Arik Armstead working without the help of Nick Bosa. And while the 49ers will still have the solid presence of K’Waun Williams in the slot and the solid presence of Emmanuel Moseley on one side of the field, the dominating presence of Richard Sherman is missing on the other side, where the Giants will be able to attack Ahkello Witherspoon. Diving another layer deeper in the individual matchups: OWS favorite Fred Warner creates a tough pass game matchup for the Giants running backs, while Evan Engram will deal with a number of matchups: none of which are “easy,” but none of which should give him much trouble. Put it all together, and with the 49ers still presenting a challenge against the run, the Giants’ best path is to lean on Evan Engram in the short areas of the field (with plenty of Golden Tate mixed in), while moving Darius Slayton around for favorable matchups and targeting him on intermediate and downfield looks. In the same way that the 49ers’ likeliest approach could lead to a number of eventually-stalled drives, the Giants could easily run into enough negative plays for this game to disappoint.
With all that said: there are other ways for this game to play out. The 49ers could hit some big plays on the ground or after the catch. And Daniel Jones could create some magic with big plays to Slayton and targets piling up for Engram. I’m having a difficult time pinning down a line on this game; but wherever Vegas has it (just checked; it’s sitting at 41.5), there’s a decently broad range on either side in which the scoring in this game could fall.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
With both of these teams carrying a Vegas-implied total of 23.0 or below (and with the injuries likely drawing some DFS attention: DFS players love spots where a player is filling in due to injury), there is nothing in this game that jumps off the page to me. (To say that another way: if this game were going entirely overlooked, there might be some sneaky plays. But if the public is poking around here, it becomes more +EV to just leave this game alone. There are some likely landmines, and the chances of missing out on a “have to have it” score are low.)
With that said: the Giants are not a scary secondary, so if you want to bet on the “possession + end zone” role of Kendrick Bourne (five targets each game so far), the YAC role of Brandon Aiyuk (only three targets last week, but a healthy 44 snaps), or “49ers tight end,” you can certainly make a case. Re: tight ends — if it’s Kittle, Sonic pulled up these stats this week from RotoViz :: with Mullens, Kittle averages 2.4 more targets, 0.9 more receptions, 0.08 more touchdowns, 26.03 more yards, and 3.83 more PPR points per game than he averages without Mullens. As always, Kittle has to really hit in order to justify his price tag; but especially on FanDuel (where it’s more about production than price tag anyway), he would be viable, while the upside is there on DraftKings. If it’s instead Jordan Reed…well, my caution on him last week was that he had only played 10 snaps in Week 1, and I expected the 49ers to keep him in the 20 to 25 snap range last week. I was right about this. Reed played only 28 snaps. But he saw eight targets on those snaps and scored two touchdowns. A 5-40-0 line is likelier than another 7-50-2; but it wouldn’t be surprising if he saw around 30 snaps again this week, and the 49ers are happy to throw to him when he’s out there.
In the backfield, the big question for me is how willing the 49ers are to give McKinnon a heavy share of snaps. Jeff Wilson is the likeliest back to see 15+ touches, but against a run defense that is more “short gain, short gain, short gain, long gain,” Wilson could easily become mostly short gains, with his long gains not doing enough to pay off. He’s a bet-on-workload-and-touchdowns play (on a team where workload can be assumed, but is never 100% certain). Wilson had a game a couple years ago with nine targets from Mullens, but that was in a blowout loss to Seattle. Outside of that spot, he’s never topped 100 yards from scrimmage (he’s topped 50 yards only once), and he’s never topped two receptions. Splitting work with Wilson will be McKinnon and UDFA JaMycal Hasty. After not playing in two years, McKinnon has been held to 19 snaps and 13 snaps, so while he has the most obvious appeal of the group, it’s difficult to bank on a heavy workload. He’s a “bet on efficiency” play. Hasty is a player the 49ers like, and if Wilson struggles early, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hasty rack up 12+ touches. He’s a large-field dart with enough sneaky upside to justify the risk.
On the Giants’ side, it isn’t yet clear if Devonta Freeman will be active here; but Freeman looked washed last year in Atlanta and had to wait until Week 3 to find a team that would give him a chance to actually play. The Giants also have Dion Lewis as their pass-catching back and Wayne Gallman as a steady fill-in they’ve leaned on in the past. None of these guys set up well here, so it’s a “hope to guess right on some receptions or a touchdown” sort of spot.
The Giants’ passing attack is more interesting, with the likely pass-leaning nature of this offense and the condensed target tree in this spot. Engram and Slayton have each seen 15 targets through two games (Golden Tate saw five targets last week; Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley are leaving 19 targets behind), and they’re the pieces on the Giants likeliest to move the needle in this game. Engram is a “bet on volume and hope for touchdowns” play with his short-area looks (Tate could be thrown into this category as well), while Slayton will be used in the downfield and intermediate areas, and is the piece that is likeliest to drive this game forward if any fantasy goodness is going to come in this spot. (That is to say: Slayton is the best bet for a big play. And it will likely take a big play or two for anything big to get stirred up in this game.) I’m not sure if I’ll end up with exposure to this game myself; but if I do, I’ll likely start my rosters at Slayton and work my way outward from there.
- After getting sacked 7 times by some of the best pass rushers in football to start 2020 (Watt, Mack, Heyward, Quinn, Dupree, Hicks), Jones now faces the injury-ravaged defensive line of SF missing Bosa, Ford, & Thomas
- Jones showed a significant fantasy ceiling in 2019 with four DK pt totals of 39.2, 32.2, 34.3, 38.3
- Jones’s 2020 target distribution: Engram (15), Slayton (15), Shepard (10), Saquon (9), Lewis (6), Tate (5)
- In what was supposed to be the first time Jones, Barkley, Shepard, Tate, Slayton, & Engram all played together, Barkley & Shepard got hurt after 8 & 15 snaps
- The trio’s targets without Shepard in 2019: Slayton (8, 2, 5, 4, 14), Engram (DNP, 5, 7, 8, DNP), Tate (9, 11, 10, 6, 8)
- The banged up SF defense has allowed 161 yds to Hopkins, 75 yds to Hogan, & 59 yds, TD to Berrios
- Despite not playing a full complement of snaps returning from injury, Tate still had the most production among NYG WRs in Week 2 with 5 rec (5) for 47 yds
- Engram’s targets in his 8 games with Jones starting: (8, 7, 11, 5, 7, 8, 7, 8)
- Engram has finished below 40 yds just twice in his last 16 games
- Wayne Gallman played in place of Saquon once in 2019, finishing with 18 att for 63 yds, TD and 6 rec (7) for 55 yds, TD
- Gallman was inactive in Week 2 when Saquon went down, leading to 10 att & 6 tg for Dion Lewis (57/65 snaps)
- The NYG also signed Devonta Freeman on Tuesday
- Nick Mullens DK scores in 2018 (low to high): 8.6, 10.7, 12.1, 14.8, 22.1, 22.2, 22.3, 26.7
- While the addition of Bradberry has helped (2nd highest forced incompletion rate in 2020 per PFF), the NYG have still allowed Ben & Trubisky to throw 5 TDs in the first two weeks
- Mullens threw 2 or 3 TDs in 4/8 games his rookie year
- Mullens kept both Kittle and a WR (Garcon 1, Goodwin 1, Pettis 4, Bourne 2) relevant in each of his 8 games
- Kittle averaged 6.4 rec (9.8) for 99.1 yds, 0.38 TDs with Mullens
- The top WR averaged 4.1 rec (5.9) for 74.4 yds, 0.75 TDs with Mullens
- The receiver that doesn’t matchup most with Bradberry (PFF’s #2 CB) will be at an advantage compared to the other, as the other three NYG CBs are ranked among PFF’s worst
- SF’s WR snaps in Week 2: Bourne (48), Aiyuk (47), Taylor (28), Pettis (10); Taylor played the most in the slot
- In Reed’s first game filling in for Kittle, he received a team-high 8 targets, producing 7 rec for 50 yds, 2 TD on just 28 snaps
- The 2019 NYG Defense allowed 8 TDs to TEs (6th most)
- In 8 games with Mullens, the top producing SF RB averaged 79 rush yds, 25.6 rec yds, 0.51 TD (jumps to 86.4, 27.7, 0.57 without dominant CHI Def)
- The 2020 NYG have allowed 113 rush yds to Snell, and 82 rush yds + 45 rec yds, TD to Montgomery
- RBs available in the SF backfield: McKinnon, Wilson, Hasty
Raiders Run D17th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O23rd DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D8th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O29th DVOA/28th Yards per pass
Patriots Run D1st DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O24th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D13th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O28th DVOA/24th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
- The Raiders will lean “balanced, toward the run” on offense, while focusing their attention on Jacobs and Waller
- The Patriots will likely land in between their extreme lack of passing volume in Week 1 and their extreme passing volume in Week 2
- Scoring should finish in a tight range around what Vegas projects, though there are a few ways for the total to swing upward or downward
- I won’t have a large number of pieces from this game, but I expect to have two or three guys from this game in my late-week player pool
How Las Vegas will try to win ::
There are a number of key 2019 rules that overlap in this game in interesting ways.
Here were three general rules on the Raiders in 2019 for +EV DFS play:
1 :: Don’t rely on Raiders wideouts on anything but a small percentage of MME play.
2 :: Only roster Josh Jacobs in spots where the Raiders will have a lead and/or Jacobs is likely to score multiple touchdowns on the ground.
3 :: Always consider Waller, and give him a boost in matchups where the Raiders may have to pass more often as the game moves along.
Here were three general rules for teams playing the Patriots in 2019 ::
1 :: Don’t play wide receivers; the Patriots were top of the league in everything against the pass last year, and they gave up only four touchdowns to wide receivers all season (Buffalo gave up the second fewest with six; the next closest team allowed nine; five teams allowed 20+).
2 :: Don’t roster running backs against them. The Patriots allowed one rushing touchdown to running backs all season. This was their fourth year in a row ranking top three in this category. The last time the Patriots allowed more than seven rushing touchdowns to running backs in a season was 2011 — giving us eight consecutive seasons in which they’ve allowed under 0.5 rushing touchdowns per game to RBs. The Patriots, philosophically, are going to force teams to score through the air when they get close to the goal line.
3 :: Only play tight ends against the Patriots who are good enough to beat Patrick Chung in coverage.
We’ll circle back in the Game Flow segment to the way these rules come together this week, but first: we know Jon Gruden is going to lean “balanced, toward the run” (the only teams last year that ran the ball at a higher rate than the Raiders were the teams from last year you first think of when you think of “run-heavy” :: Baltimore // San Francisco // Tennessee // Minnesota // Indianapolis // Seattle // Buffalo), and we know that this team will work outward from there — throwing to the middle of the field at a higher rate than most teams: working from Waller to Hunter Renfrow to the perimeter.
How New England will try to win ::
The Patriots went run-heavy against the Dolphins and pass-heavy agains the Seahawks, while this game should see them somewhat in the middle (to back that up: the Dolphins faced the fifth highest rush play rate last year; the Seahawks faced the eighth highest pass play rate; the Patriots tracked toward both of those setups, while the Raiders ranked right around the middle of the league a year ago; this is a completely new Patriots offense, so there is obviously some guesswork involved; but a balanced attack would make the most sense here). The Raiders ranked top five in adjusted line yards on defense last year, but they rank bottom five so far this season, and their linebackers are better suited to coverage than to run-stopping. This should allow the Patriots to find enough success on the ground to keep the chains moving this way, while the matchup against an attackable Las Vegas secondary should keep them attacking through the air. In Week 1, Cam Newton threw the ball only 19 times. In Week 2, he threw the ball 44 times. Somewhere in the middle is a reasonable expectation here, with something like 31 pass attempts and 10 rushes his likeliest starting point for quantity and distribution of touches. When taking to the air, N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman (18 targets apiece) will be the primary targets, while minimum-priced speedster Damiere Byrd (who saw nine targets last week…one week after I used him on a couple rosters against the Dolphins and he saw zero targets) will have a chance to rack up looks as the number three weapon here if the Patriots take to the air often enough.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
Josh Jacobs has averaged 4.5 targets per game.
Henry Ruggs has averaged 4.0 targets.
Hunter Renfrow has averaged 2.5 targets.
Bryan Edwards has averaged 1.5 targets.
Nelson Agholor and Jason Witten have averaged 1.0 targets per game.
Zay Jones and Fabian Moreau have averaged 0.5 targets per game.
Darren Waller has averaged 12.0 targets per game.
Of course, the first thing this means is that Bill Belichick will be focusing primarily on forcing the Raiders to beat them with other weapons. This doesn’t mean Waller won’t be targeted; and with Patrick Chung opting out of this season, the matchup is softer than it would have been a year ago. But ultimately, this could hurt Waller on the whole, as the Patriots might have been content to allow Chung and Waller to battle it out; but now, their chances of getting creative in how they scheme to stop Waller go up.
This type of exploration would typically go in the Interpretation segment; but because the Raiders are so heavily dependent on Waller and Jacobs for their production, this could have a fairly large impact on the way this game plays out.
Meanwhile, the Raiders are down Richie Incognito on an offensive line behind which Jacobs is currently averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. The Raiders should be able to find a way to score points in this game; but 17 to 23 points is their likeliest range (checking Vegas: the Raiders are pegged at 20.75, which looks just about right).
Everything in the Patriots offense right now is built around Cam (63 pass attempts, 26 rush attempts), and the Raiders don’t have the pieces to slow him down for an entire game — putting New England’s expected scoring range at 23 to 31 (in all, this lines up exactly with the way Vegas has this game pegged — an Over/Under of 47.5, with the Patriots implied for just under 27 points and the Raiders implied for just under 21). New England won’t necessarily have the lead the entire game, but they are the team likelier to control this game and be playing with the lead.
There are no very clear tributaries here; but whenever you have players who can score from anywhere on the field (with Henry Ruggs very much falling into this category), scoring can take off more quickly in a game; and any time you have two teams that are comfortable going run-heavy, scoring can disappoint. This gives us a slightly broader range of outcomes than can be fully captured by an Over/Under; but most of the scenarios for this game would still have it falling in a tight range around 47.0.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
Josh Jacobs has touched the ball 29.5 times per game in the early going — which is enough to make him a “consider in literally any matchup” play. The long history of New England limiting scoring on the ground lowers my excitement here, though I could also see the Patriots slowing down Waller, and the Raiders having to lean on Jacobs through the air as a result. For my own play (assuming there is enough to like at running back in other games (this is the fifth game I have researched so far, which leaves eight remaining)), I’ll likely leave Jacobs alone. (The only way I would see myself going here would be if I had a heavy dose of Waller; in which case, I would see Jacobs as the guy likeliest to succeed if Waller disappoints.) But I will never argue against rostering a talented back who is seeing 29.5 touches per game in the early going, if you like Jacobs this week yourself.
Waller is a fine play (as in: of course he’s solid; but he’s also going to be priced about where his role should have him, and the Patriots are highly likely to design a large chunk of their defensive game plan around trying to slow him down), and I have no argument against rostering him. Given the downside risk and the likely elevated ownership, I may just stay away; but in a vacuum, I almost always like Waller as a play.
On the Patriots’ side, Cam is the main guy to look toward, as this entire offense, at present, is built off of what Cam allows them to do. Cam is in play in single-entry/three-entry-max tourneys, and in large-field play, and can be played naked or with one of his receivers. Edelman // Harry // Byrd are the pecking order for production, while Harry // Edelman // Byrd might be the DFS rankings with price factored in. (Harry and Edelman each have 18 targets and 13 receptions. Edelman has the big advantage in yards, but Harry is actually the player likelier to see downfield looks. Byrd is stone minimum on both sites and is a risk/reward play. We’ve seen him get zero targets, and we’ve seen him get nine targets. This week, he’s likeliest to land in the middle as Cam lands in the middle for pass attempts, but his range could swing wildly from there.) I was thinking of setting a rule of “only roster a Patriots receiver if you’re also rostering Cam,” though Harry and Byrd are cheap enough (and Harry, in particular, is involved enough) that I could see using one of these guys as a bottom-up piece.
I would only use the Patriots running backs if betting heavily on Cam across a bunch of rosters and wanting to add in some hedges elsewhere. Cam is the Patriots run game at the moment.
- LV has allowed Teddy & Brees to pass for 270 yds, TD and 312 yds, TD, INT
- LV has allowed 129 yds and 112 yds on the ground
- Cam has yardage totals of 155 & 397 through the air and 75 & 47 on the ground, with 1 pass TD & 4 rush TDs
- Cam’s only career game vs a Paul Guenther defense (2014 CIN): 284 pass yds, 2 TD, INT, 107 rush yds, TD
- Cam’s 15 rush att in Week 1 were the most he’s had since that exact game vs CIN in 2014 (career high 17 att)
- Cam’s 44 pass att in Week 2 would’ve ranked as his 2nd highest total in every season dating back to 2014; 9th highest total in 127 career games
- Julian Edelman has the second highest market share of team air yards in the NFL
- Edelman’s 179 yds vs SEA were more than he had in any game with Brady
- N’Keal Harry has as many targets as Edelman through two weeks (18), and has produced 111 yds on 13 rec with a goal-line fumble that was nearly a TD instead
- After receiving 0 targets in Week 1, Damiere Byrd produced 6 rec (9) 72 yds in Week 2
- NE RB touches through two weeks: Burkhead (19), Michel (18), White (8), Taylor (6)
- Burkhead had 6 att and 6 tg in Week 2 without James White
- Derek Carr is 0-2 vs Belichick, losing 9-16 and 8-33
- NE has held MIA RBs to 14 att 62 yds and SEA RBs to 25 att 115 yds
- The five RBs to top 100 yds rushing vs NE in 2019 were Gore, Chubb, Ingram, Mixon, & Henry, ranked 38th, 2nd, 13th, 12th, & 1st in rushing yds/g
- Josh Jacobs ranked 3rd in rushing yds/g in 2019 and ranks 6th so far in 2020
- Jacobs has faced the 9th highest percentage of 8-man boxes through two weeks (30.8%)
- Of those top 9, Jacobs & Gus Edwards are the only two to have a positive Rush Yds Over Expected (NextGen)
- Jacobs has forced the 3rd most missed tackles per touch among 20-touch RBs (38 qualifiers) in 2020
- Darren Waller has 24 targets in 2020: No other LV player has even 10
- Per NextGen, Waller finished with at least 1 rec against nine different Saints defenders and had at least 1 rec from four different alignments (Tight, Slot, Wide, Backfield)
- NE allowed 11 rec (14) for 159 yds, 2 TD to SEA’s stud WRs (Lockett/Metcalf)
- In three of Gilmore’s most recent five games, he’s been beaten deep by John Brown and Metcalf, and given up major production to Devante Parker
- Ruggs beat CAR deep in Week 1 before getting hurt, and an overthrow + a PI potentially cost him another one or two vs NOR
- Ruggs’s 8 targets on the year trail only Waller (24) and Jacobs (9)
Titans Run D10th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O27th DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Titans Pass D24th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O21st DVOA/17th Yards per pass
Vikings Run D12th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O18th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D10th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O24th DVOA/16th Yards per pass
- Cousins has been rough so far, with his only fantasy production coming garbage time vs Green Bay
- TEN ranked closer to the bottom against QBs in 2019 (DK pts), but they also faced the 6th most pass attempts
- Coming off a historically low pass play season (below 500), Cousins has just 51 total attempts through two weeks despite being blown out in both
- Melvin Gordon and James Robinson both found success on the ground vs TEN, combining for 31 att for 180 yds, 2 TD
- Three short TDs have saved Cook’s fantasy production, as he has just 26 att for 113 yds and 3 rec for 6 yds through two weeks
- Thielen has 8 targets in both games, but without the deep TDs like in Week 1, he finished with just 31 yds in Week 2
- Thielen currently has the highest market share of team air yards in the NFL
- Ryan Tannehill is averaging 23.6 DK pts in his 12 regular season starts for TEN
- Tannehill threw for 396 yds, 4 TD, INT in his first career matchup vs Mike Zimmer
- Zimmer’s 2020 MIN defense has allowed games of 364 yds, 4 TD to Rodgers and 214 yds, TD to Rivers
- MIN lost another starter on defense in LB Anthony Barr
- Through two weeks, MIN has allowed 139 yds, TD to GB RBs and 141 yds, TD to IND RBs
- Through two weeks, Henry is averaging 28 att for 100 yds
- Jonnu Smith has been Tannehill’s best weapon so far in 2020, producing 8 rec (12) for 120 yds, 3 TD
- MIN just allowed 111 yds on 5 rec to Mo Alie-Cox
Game Overview ::
- The Vikings are banged up, and will look to lean on the run
- The Titans will look to lean on the run, and are also set up well through the air
- This game could be higher-scoring than most in the DFS community will give it credit for
- It’s difficult to isolate individual pieces from this game to fall in love with on single-entry/three-entry-max builds, but there are some ways to bet on this game environment as a whole
How Minnesota will try to win ::
The Vikings (correctly or incorrectly) see themselves as a playoff team; and they are also a well-coached team. At 0-2, the chances are high that they will come out focused and ready to play well in this one — whatever that means, given the step back their offense has taken so far in the absence of Stefon Diggs, and given all the talent loss on defense (between offseason and injuries: Xavier Rhodes // Trae Waynes // Linval Joseph // Everson Griffin // Danielle Hunter // Anthony Barr). Unfortunately for Minnesota, they will be taking on a Tennessee team that goes fairly opponent-specific in their defensive game plans (likely leading to a “force the Vikings to win with anyone but Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen” approach; not that the Titans will be 100% successful in this approach, but expect it to be their focus), and that sets up well on offense to take advantage of the depleted Vikings defense.
Look for Minnesota to try to keep the ball on the ground for as long as they can when they’re in possession, and look for them to try to tighten up downfield and force long drives from the Titans offense (Minnesota will know they can’t necessarily “force stops” here, but they can force Tennessee to go on long drives that require them to play mistake-free football).
How Tennessee will try to win ::
The Titans want to force linebackers and safeties to pay attention to Derrick Henry, as this allows them to run Jonnu Smith and wide receivers horizontally or diagonally through multiple zones of the defense. With the linebackers and safeties pulled forward by Henry and pulled side-to-side by the action in the pass game, holes eventually open up, and Arthur Smith is then able to get into a play-calling rhythm that finds and exploits the holes that are created. Against a talent-depleted, zone-leaning defense like Zimmer’s, the Titans are set up well for success. A.J. Brown is expected to miss another week, so we’ll take a look at how this game sets up for DFS in the Interpretation segment; but one way or another, the Titans should find ways to maneuver down the field against the Vikings defense.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
Last season, both of these teams finished top four in rush play rate, and both defenses ranked top three in fewest rushes allowed of 20+ yards (the Vikings ranked second, allowing only five such rushes all year; the Titans tied with the Steelers and Patriots in third place at six such rushes allowed). The Vikings are the team likelier to crack in this area, but they are still going to be a fundamentally sound defense that makes big plays more difficult for opponents (last season, for example, the Vikings shaved almost 25% off the league-average YAC/r rate — by far the best mark in the league; the Titans, by the way, shaved almost 8% off themselves; these two teams are fairly similar in a lot of their general philosophies and approaches). Tennessee is the better team, but both of these teams are fundamentally going to be good in the red zone, while the Titans struggled to defend in the red zone last year, finishing bottom five in opponent red zone touchdown rate (the Vikings, for whatever it’s worth, were the second best defense in the red zone a season ago). The raw ceiling on this game is somewhat capped by the way each of these teams likes to win games, but we nevertheless have some sneaky high-scoring potential here, with good coaches all the way around, and with some good offensive pieces. The Titans are likelier to control this game, but it’s likely to remain competitive throughout. This would likely leave each team at 31 or fewer pass attempts (in his last 12 games, including playoffs, Ryan Tannehill has topped 27 pass attempts only three times, while Kirk Cousins has gone seven consecutive games with 31 or fewer pass attempts), and would likely give each running back a clear path to 23+ touches. Scoring should come from in close, rather than from big plays (giving a bump to running backs — though Jonnu, Corey Davis, and Adam Thielen are all used near the end zone as well), and the ultimate outcome of the game may depend on whether these teams are scoring touchdowns or are settling for field goals. 23-20 is about the lowest score we would expect here, with clear upside to something like a 24 to 27 game, or even 27-31 (before last week, the Vikings’ game totals had hit 49+ in five consecutive games against non-division opponents, while the Titans have quietly scored 31+ points in six of their last nine regular season games). I haven’t yet looked at the Over/Under, but I’m guessing it’s around 45.5, or maybe even 46.5 — which would look slightly high for these two teams at first glance; but I would actually go as high as 48.5 here myself (wow; good on Vegas — they have this game at 49.0, as of Wednesday night; though, after digging in on a deeper level, I guess it’s more “good on the early-week sharps”; this line opened at 45.5 before quickly being bet up). Scoring would finish in a tight range around these numbers in most scenarios; but when it’s all said and done, there’s a good chance here that both teams find a way to put up points.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
Games in which the total is moving up aggressively are always spots we should pay attention to as DFS players (and for me, at least, this is further deepened by the fact that Vegas started this line right where I expected to find it, and the line has since moved right where I would have set it). The public thinks of “low scoring” when they see these names, and that may help lower ownership in DFS this weekend.
Of course, it’s a little more difficult to recommend how to play this spot, as Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry are both priced high enough that they need multiple scores simply to reach value, as neither team is passing enough to give their back a serious pass game boost (especially the Titans — who pass even less than the Vikings, and who use Henry far less in the pass game). Beyond this, the pass game volume is too low to make any of these pass catchers more than a “bet on touchdown” play as well (in most game scripts here, Thielen will max out at 10 or 11 targets, and his likeliest range is eight to nine — which is fine, but is still tough to pay up for when guys with bigger downfield roles and a much clearer shot at double-digits are also hanging out in his price range, and when the Titans are the sort of team that can be more purposeful than most in forcing the Vikings to beat them away from Thielen; Thielen will see his targets no matter what, but the matchup cuts off a lot of his paths to a truly high-target game, and many of the targets he sees are likely to be in tight windows).
In spots like this, I prefer to bet on the game environment, rather than isolating individual plays; and if betting on the game environment, the place I would actually want to start is Tannehill, who gets you some leverage in the fact that no one ever thinks of rostering him, while giving you enough upside to be worth the perceived risk. Tanny has gone for 25+ DraftKings points in five of his last 10 regular season games (22+ on FanDuel), with only one game below 17.9 points. We’re a ways away from the weekend, but I could see myself ending up with something like three Tannehill rosters on a 26-roster block :: one with Jonnu (five targets last week), one with Davis (five targets last week), and one with Tanny naked. I might then bring one of those back with Dalvin, one of those back with Thielen, and one of those back with both. And then I might hedge with a couple Henry rosters — betting that if Tanny disappoints, it will be because Henry is having a big day. Outside of these isolated bets, I wouldn’t be rostering players from this game, but this would get me exposure on my Roster Block, in case the points in this game concentrate on the cornerstone pieces of these offenses.
Jets Run D14th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O9th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D3rd DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O17th DVOA/15th Yards per pass
Colts Run D24th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O32nd DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D14th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O31st DVOA/31st Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
- The matchup and expected game environment should tilt the Colts toward being more balanced than they have been so far (one game pass-heavy; one game run-heavy)
- The Jets are treating their losses like wins :: trying to “ice away the game” even when they fall far behind; this doesn’t bode well for shootout potential
- The Colts are likely to play with a lead, and the Jets are likely to drag down the momentum of this game like a lead weight
- Jonathan Taylor is viable once again, while Mo Alie-Cox and T.Y. Hilton each have a few elements pointing their direction
How Indianapolis will try to win ::
After finishing top two in adjusted line yards on defense a year ago, the Jets already rank top two for 2020 as well. In Week 2, they gave up an 80-yard touchdown to Raheem Mostert and a 55-yard run to Jerick McKinnon on a beautiful cutback on 3rd and 31 (they also gave up a long touchdown run to Mostert that was called back due to holding), but outside of these plays, they allowed 27 yards on 23 carries to Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Jeff Wilson (while allowing McKinnon to go 2-22 on his other two runs). Meanwhile, the Jets have allowed quarterbacks so far to go 55 of 73 (75.3%) for 514 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
This creates an interesting setup. We know that Frank Reich is adaptable. We know that after going pass-heavy in 2018 with Andrew Luck, he went run-heavy in 2019 with Jacoby Brissett. And we know that after going pass-heavy in Week 1 against the Jags, he went run-heavy last week against the Vikings. The Colts have the best offensive line in football, but the 49ers’ line is strong in its own right, and it was getting visibly blown up by the Jets last week — pointing to the pass game as the path of least resistance. Put it all together, and we should see Indy throwing the ball more this week than they did in last week’s blowout win (25 attempts for Philip Rivers in that one, with 35 rush attempts between Jonathan Taylor (26) and Jordan Wilkins (nine)) — though the likelihood of the Colts controlling this game could still put a dent in pass game volume on the whole.
How the Jets will try to win ::
The Jets are getting enough of a push with their offensive line, and Adam Gase is in love enough with the run, that the Jets will try to win on the ground pretty much regardless of what is happening in this game. (Down 21-3 coming out of the half last week, starting with the ball inside his own 20, Gase and the Jets went run // run // pass that traveled one yard downfield on 3rd and 3. Down 24-6 (three scores) with 00.27 on the clock at the end of the third quarter, the Jets called a run and then let the clock go to the end of the quarter. Down 31-6 with 10.15 left in the game (down four scores — in a position where it was mathematically impossible for them to win unless they were throwing downfield), Gase opened the Jets drive with a run.) If the Jets force some turnovers and take a lead, they’ll try to kill off this game. If the Jets fall behind, they’ll try to kill off this game. (Remember when Adam Gase coached under John Fox? What a pairing that was!)
The maddening thing about Gase is that if he can keep games close, he can figure out a way to win games he shouldn’t. But this Jets team can’t keep games close; and when they fall behind, they show no urgency — continuing to act as though they are killing off the clock the way they would with a lead. As we said in this space last week: If you know how the Jets should try to win this game, Gase would love to hear from you.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
Either through a long run from Taylor, a couple sustained drives, or a big play to Mo Alie-Cox or T.Y. Hilton, the Colts are likely to take the lead, and once they have the lead, they are likely to hold on. The Jets, meanwhile, will drag down the momentum of this game like a lead weight — allowing the Colts to remain balanced, while eventually slowing down a bit on their end as both teams aim to ice away this game (the Colts with a lead; the Jets with a loss). Ultimately, the Colts should dominate here. If they don’t, it will likely be because of mistakes that keep this game lower-scoring, rather than from the Jets suddenly clicking and putting up big plays.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
On the Colts’ first play last week, they threw a swing pass to Jonathan Taylor. On the 15th play of that drive, they threw a pass to him on 3rd and 10. The matchup isn’t great for Taylor, but it was evident last week — when he played 67.1% of snaps — that the Colts are going to involve him in this offense regardless of what they are doing. The matchup isn’t great against the Jets, but the game environment works in Taylor’s favor, making him a viable tourney play for upside if you want to go there. (As a bonus: the Jets allowed the sixth most receiving yards to running backs last season.) Taylor seems destined to see 20+ touches regardless of matchup, so while the matchup is rough, his floor is relatively solid, and there is definitely upside.
Through the air for Indy, volume is somewhat capped on all players, as it would take the Jets keeping pace in order for volume to truly spike; but with Parris Campbell out and the Colts likely to throw more than 25 times, Hilton and Mo Alie-Cox are interesting targets in a game in which per-play efficiency should be elevated. Eight or more targets for Hilton and six or more targets for MAC are fair median projections. MAC’s role was awesomely downfield-focused last week (of his six targets, four came 15+ yards downfield, and three of those came 20+ yards downfield), while Hilton ranks seventh in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards and is a major regression candidate after catching only 50% of passes thrown his way so far (last week: three of his five targets came 15+ yards downfield — with two of them coming 30+ yards). Even if the Colts “don’t throw the ball,” Hilton lines up well for six or seven looks against a very beatable secondary.
Behind these core pieces for the Colts, Michael Pittman (six targets last week) and Zach Pascal (four targets last week) will soak up a bit of work. You need a role change for Pittman (who worked the short areas last week) or some luck from Pascal to help you win a tourney, but each guy will be on the field plenty in a good matchup if you want to chase.
On the other side of the ball: the Colts — as we know — filter targets away from wide receivers and toward the middle of the field. This is not a talent-rich defense outside of the linebackers; but even at that, they have the talent edge over a Jets team that entered the season with one of the lowest-talent offenses in the NFL and is now likely to be missing all of Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman this week. If chasing here for low-cost upside, Chris Herndon is the only player who stands out (Herndon has legitimate upside; the matchup tilts his direction; and on DraftKings in particular, it’s hard to get 4x from tight end no matter which price range you land in; so giving yourself exposure to a high-usage cheap guy can open paths to an edge if the guy hits, while keeping you relatively protected even if he doesn’t), but if you want to get wild here, you could bet on volume being enough to create upside for Chris Hogan or Braxton Berrios. Or, you could just trust that Gase is trying to hurt your rosters, and you could leave the rest of the Jets alone.
- Frank Reich faced Gregg Williams once (Chargers OC), winning 27-24
- Rivers vs Gregg Williams defense: W 38-24, W 19-10, W 27-24
- Josh Allen crushed this Jets defense (312 pass yds, 57 rush yds, 3 TD) and Garoppolo was 14/16 for 131 yds, 2 TD before exiting early
- Rivers threw 41 times in Week 1 and just 25 times in Week 2
- Rivers Week 2 targets with Campbell going down: Cox (6), Pittman (6), Hilton (5), Pascal (4), Taylor (2)
- Hilton had another costly drop, this time on a potential deep TD, so his 3 rec 28 yd outing would’ve looked much different
- Diggs & Brown scored 16.6 & 19.0 DK pts vs NYJ and it could’ve been more without Allen missing Brown wide open in endzone
- Williams defenses have struggled to contain TEs, and in Week 2 allowed 7 rec for 50 yds, 2 TD to Jordan Reed
- In his start in place of Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox finished with 5 rec for 111 yds
- Of Mostert & McKinnon’s 169 rush yds vs NYJ, 135 of them came on 2 rushes
- The NYJ run defense is much stronger up the gut than to the edges
- Of Jonathan Taylor’s 26 rush att in Week 2, 19 of them were by the tackles or out wide
- Sam Darnold hasn’t even scored 20 DK pts since Week 12 of last season
- Darnold is currently working with a skill group of Herndon, Perriman, Berrios, & Hogan, and the best player of that group, Herndon, spent Week 2 blocking on 36.4% of passing snaps (#1 of TEs) and only playing 74% of the total snaps
- The MIN offense couldn’t do much of anything vs IND with such a mismatch in the trenches, and the NYJ offensive line is in a similar state of despair outside of their lone bright spot (rookie LT Becton)
- The IND defense is designed to limit big plays, which is essentially the only skill Breshad Perriman has displayed in the NFL to this point
- Hogan & Berrios led the way with 8 targets each in the absence of Crowder, with a garbage time 30 yd touchdown saving Berrios from finishing with just 5 rec 29 yds